OSHA is working with employers to continue the trend of safer workplaces.
Over the past three decades, occupational injuries and illnesses in the United States have declined by 42 percent, even though employment has more than doubled, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Still, every year, nearly five million workers experience an occupational injury or illness on the job. More than half of these are serious enough that the person misses some time at work.
OSHA is working with employers and employees to move toward zero injuries and illnesses in workplaces. The administration encourages employees to properly record all incidents.
When a worker is killed on the job or three or more workers are hospitalized by an accident, the employer must report it to OSHA within eight hours. Fatal heart attacks also must be reported. Employers can call the nearest OSHA office to provide the information, or may call 800/321-6742.
Employers who cannot reach a healthcare facility within a reasonable amount of time must be prepared to provide first aid to workers who experience injuries or illnesses. OSHA requires adequate first aid supplies to be readily available and that someone be adequately trained to render first aid.
The agency also encourages employers to acquire automated external defibrillators – medical devices designed to revive victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The devices analyze a victim's heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to restore heart rhythm to normal.
The battery-operated devices are compact, lightweight, portable, safe and easy to use. Having them onsite can save precious time and improve survival odds because they can be used before emergency medical service personnel arrive.
Most employers in high-hazard industries are required to keep records of injuries and illnesses. An annual summary must be posted in the workplace Feb. 1 to April 30. Details on record-keeping requirements and forms are available from www.osha.gov.
The website also offers training to help employers complete the forms. Those with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from injury and illness recordkeeping unless selected by OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics to take part in mandatory data collection.
A hallmark of an effective safety and health management system is a commitment to investigate every incident that results in a worker injury or illness, as well as near misses. By immediately following up, employers can identify root causes and take corrective steps to prevent future problems.
When it comes to injuries and illnesses, the best defense is a good offense – a proactive safety and health management system that focuses on finding and fixing hazards before they lead to problems. OSHA offers various services, such as consultation and compliance assistance programs, to help employers establish safety and health management systems.
OSHA's Consultation Program, for example, is a free service to help smaller employers identify and fix hazards in their workplaces. OSHA also has compliance assistance specialists available in each area office to help employers and employees comply with OSHA requirements.
OSHA's Safety and Health Management eTool – interactive software on the agency website – helps users build their own safety system based on responses to a series of questions. Employers and employees can also consult the OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses and "Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines." All these resources are available at www.osha.gov.
Accidents happen, but in most cases, it takes only one act of prevention to make the difference.